CPJ Blog

Press Freedom News and Views

Tom Rhodes

Tom Rhodes is CPJ's East Africa representative, based in Nairobi. Rhodes is a founder of southern Sudan’s first independent newspaper. Follow him on Twitter: @africamedia_CPJ

2011


Blog   |   Tanzania

How to survive in Tanzania's press

There is one simple rule for survival in Tanzania's media - whether you are an editor, reporter, columnist, printer, or even news vendor: don't be critical. Thanks to repressive laws on Tanzania's books, an article considered libelous by the state can get anyone in trouble, even prominent journalists such as Absalom Kibanda -- the chairman of the Tanzania Editor's Forum and managing editor of the popular Swahili daily Tanzania Daima ("Tanzania Forever").

Blog   |   Rwanda, Uganda

The silent funeral of an exiled Rwandan journalist

Charles Ingabire was shot dead at 32. (Ally Mugenzi/BBC)

The crime reporter for Uganda's vibrant Daily Monitor, Andrew Bagala, went to an odd funeral over the weekend. Last week, he covered the murder of online journalist Charles Ingabire, 32, who was shot dead in the early hours of Thursday morning by unknown gunmen at a bar in a Kampala suburb. "I decided to follow up the case and attend the funeral," he told me. "It was first funeral I have ever been to in Africa where there was silence."

December 5, 2011 5:15 PM ET

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Blog   |   South Sudan

South Sudan journalist speaks out after illegal detention

South Sudan President Salva Kiir said the Destiny article was defamatory. (CPJ)

Detained without charge for 18 days, tortured, and released without explanation, South Sudanese journalist Peter Ngor plans to fight back. "I am going to sue them [in] court. What they did to me was completely, utterly wrong," said Ngor, the editor of a new, private, English-language daily called Destiny.

Still, Ngor believes that his illegal detention was the work of a few individuals, and that ultimately, the world's newest country will support freedom of the press. "There are powerful individuals who want to stop the press for their own interests," he said.


November 22, 2011 4:32 PM ET

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Blog   |   Kenya

Glimmer of hope for justice in Kenyan death

From left, Francis Nyaruri's father, Peter Nyaruri; Peter's wife; the journalist's widow, Josephine Kwamboka; and his sister (CPJ)

Slain journalist Francis Nyaruri received threatening calls from a senior policeman shortly before he disappeared and his decapitated body was found in Kodera forest, western Kenya, a court sitting in Kisumu heard today in the presence of two murder suspects and four witnesses.

November 3, 2011 4:28 PM ET

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Blog   |   Eritrea, Ethiopia

Swedish support for jailed colleagues in Ethiopia, Eritrea

Swedish journalist Elsa Persson (Journalisternas Solidariska Fängelseaktion)

If you pass by Kronoberg Prison in Sweden's capital, Stockholm, you will see journalists chained to its gates. They have committed no crime. For over a week, journalists have taken turns locking themselves up in front of the prison to raise awareness of the imprisonment of three colleagues held in the Horn of Africa.

October 17, 2011 4:47 PM ET

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Blog   |   Namibia

A quiet victory for The Namibian

Namibians wanted independent journalism, Lister says. (The Namibian)

Namibia's information minister recently announced that a decade-long state advertising boycott of The Namibian, the country's largest daily newspaper, would finally end. An action intended to punish the paper for its independence had failed.

It was back in December 2000 that former President Sam Nujoma told his cabinet to block all government advertising and purchases of the leading daily because he perceived the newspaper to be anti-governmental. Nujoma's decree caused the paper to lose 6 percent of its advertising revenue and 650 single-copy sales to government officials, The Namibian's founding editor and former CPJ award winner Gwen Lister said.  

Blog   |   South Sudan

Mission Journal: South Sudan's struggle for a free press

In the first months of an independent South Sudan, the press is feeling its way. (AP)

The former guerrillas of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) fought a 22-year civil war for greater autonomy and civil rights for the southern Sudanese people, culminating in South Sudan's independence this July. But local journalists fear the former rebels turned government officials still harbor a war mentality that is unaccustomed to criticism, and that they are not prepared to extend the freedoms they fought hard to attain. "We are still recovering from a war culture," Oliver Modi, chairman of the Union of Journalists of Southern Sudan, told me. "There is just too much ignorance toward the press. We are not used to systems, structures--even the media," he said, pointing to a list of eight documented cases of attacks against the press this year.

September 8, 2011 1:44 PM ET

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Blog   |   Rwanda

Rwandan paper calls president a 'sociopath', apologizes

(Izuba)

Sometimes when a paper produces a defamatory piece, an apology will be published on page two in the next edition along with the day's news. In Rwanda, it would appear, a paper will use an entire edition to apologize--if the insults were directed at the president. The latest issue of Ishema, at left, is perhaps a sign of the times for Rwanda's press.

The vernacular bimonthly had recently published an opinion piece written under the byline "Kamikaze" that claimed President Kagame was a sociopath. Many within the media community protested, as did Adrien Servumba, who, branding himself "a concerned citizen," called on the state-run media ombudsman to reprimand the managing director, Fidele Gakire, the state news agency reported. On July 25, the agency reported that men in plainclothes seized copies of the paper from vendors. The same day, members of the Forum of Private Newspapers, an organization of newspaper owners, suspended Gakire from the group for six months. 

Blog   |   Eritrea

Habeas corpus writ seeks Dawit Isaac, jailed for 3,600 days

Journalist Dawit Isaac, co-founder of Eritrea's now-defunct leading newspaper Setit, has spent nearly 10 years in one of the reclusive Red Sea nation's secret prisons with no charges ever placed against him. Isaac's location and health status are currently unknown, as are those of at least 16 other journalists who CPJ believes are also being held incommunicado in the country.

August 3, 2011 12:06 PM ET

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Blog   |   Ethiopia

Terrorists? A look at two jailed Ethiopian journalists

At the end of June, Ethiopia's Anti-Terror Task Force arrested nine people on charges of attempting to "destroy electrical and telecommunication infrastructures" with support from Ethiopia's arch-enemy, Eritrea. Held under Ethiopia's far-reaching antiterrorism law, only four of the suspects' names have so far been revealed and two of them happen to be journalists

July 20, 2011 3:23 PM ET

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Blog   |   Kenya

Kenya's quiet information revolution

Kenya's new government database.

An information revolution is quietly unfolding in Kenya, potentially allowing the public greater access to government data and independent local news. This month, the nation became a regional leader in open government with the launch of a website providing easy access to volumes of public information. Journalists can tap into public budget data with relative ease through the government portal. 

July 15, 2011 2:18 PM ET

Blog   |   Ethiopia, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda

The Internet in East Africa: An aid or a weapon?

In Johannesburg. (CPJ)

Frank Nyakairu has seen it all. A veteran war reporter, he has covered the horrors of northern Uganda and Somalia, among others places. And throughout this time of rich but often appalling experiences, he has also seen the auspicious--and sometimes terrifying--impact the Internet has had on East African reporters. 

Nyakairu spoke at a recent workshop held in Johannesburg, South Africa, co-organized by Global Voices, Google Africa, and CPJ. Attendees at the conference comprised some of the most active African bloggers and online reporters on the continent who came to learn how to sharpen their online reporting skills while avoiding the censors. 

Blog   |   Kenya

Acquitted: A Kenyan journalist struggles to report freely

(CPJ)

A court in Kisumu, western Kenya, recently acquitted journalist Bernard Okebe, at left, of graft charges after a two and a half year case against him. While the case is finally over, Okebe is still dealing with the fallout of being accused of blackmail.

In December 2008, the police chief of Nyamira, a town in western Kenya, accused Okebe of bribing him. Police Chief Lawrence Njoroge alleged that Okebe had demanded 15,000 Kenyan shillings (US$175) to stop him from publishing a damaging article against him.

June 14, 2011 11:02 AM ET

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Blog   |   Somalia

Exiled Somali journalists rally around wounded colleague

Colleagues gather to support Hassan. (CPJ)

Hassan Mohamed, nicknamed "Jaeyl" by his colleagues, used to be a jack-of-all-trades for Somalia's first independent broadcaster, HornAfrik. He was a journalist, a producer, and a librarian. He was even a dramatist. His most powerful professional role was keeping HornAfrik running when most senior staff members fled the country, fearing for their lives.

May 24, 2011 4:40 PM ET

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Blog   |   Malawi

Malawi: A prying press silenced by injunctions

The president with first lady Callista Mutharika at a G20 summit last year. (AP)
In Malawi, where half the population survives on a dollar a day, it proves wise for the political elite to keep their exorbitant wealth hidden from public scrutiny.  That's why they appear to be running to the courthouse to file injunctions to silence the press.

Blog   |   Sudan

Remembering South Sudan's pioneer female reporter

When The Juba Post's star reporter, Apollonia Mathia, told me that so-called "tong tong" rebels had attacked again near Gumba, in southern Sudan, I looked at her warily. "Let me get the camera I'll check it out," she said. Apollonia planned to hop on our rickety motorbike to cover a story about the infamous Ugandan rebels, the Lord's Resistance Army. Locals in the current capital of what will soon be South Sudan, Juba, call the Ugandan rebels "tong tong," which literally means "cut cut," because of their notoriously brutal machete attacks. It was getting late in the day, but I knew there was no point in trying to convince Apollonia out of a story. 

March 30, 2011 6:17 PM ET

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Blog   |   Kenya, Somalia

A Somali journalist still gets taunting threats in exile

Abdi has been targeted from Somalia to Kenya. (CPJ)

It was February 2008 when Bahjo Mohamud Abdi received her first anonymous phone call. It was a man's voice asking her to confirm who she was. Abdi was a presenter and correspondent for the state radio in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Abdi confirmed her identity and thought no more about it. But then she received another anonymous phone call two hours later--informing her that she was talking to the "Somali Mujahadeen" and that they could see her in the local shopping center in downtown Baidoa. 

March 25, 2011 4:59 PM ET

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Blog   |   Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda

Nairobi Attacks launch probes investigative reporting

Journalists at CPJ's Nairobi launch of Attacks on the Press today. (CPJ)At CPJ's book launch of our annual survey of press freedom conditions across the world, Attacks on the Press, today in Nairobi, we focused on the growing theme of challenges to investigative journalism in Africa, with a particular look at East Africa. The subject certainly resonated with the local and foreign journalists here. 
February 15, 2011 3:01 PM ET

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Blog   |   Equatorial Guinea

With abysmal press freedom record, Obiang takes AU chair

Reuters

The African Union announced on Sunday that the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang, will become the new chairman in the union's yearly rotating leadership. The first debate Obiang (at left) presided over at the two-day AU conference that ends today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, concerned "shared values"--highlighting issues of democracy and good governance. Representing one of Africa's most oppressive dictatorships, with a completely stifled press, the new AU chair could hardly refer to personal experience in such a debate.

Blog   |   Nigeria

Another Nigerian journalist dies in strife-torn Jos

Since December 24, about 80 people have died from three bombings in Jos; seen here is a government building smoldering after a blast. (Reuters)

Augustine Sindyi, a veteran photographer for the state-owned weekly Standard newspaper in Plateau State, was walking home from work on Christmas Eve when a nearby bomb explosion killed him instantly. Sindyi resided in a busy Nigerian neighborhood near the local government offices in the center of Jos. The assailants targeted an area that would receive immeasurable damage where Sindyi happened to live, state radio reporter Murtala Sani, told me.